JANESVILLE, WI — Head coach Corey Leivermann called it a “playoff game,” and not just in the sense that the Jets need to earn points in the season’s final quarter of play.
A chippy game between the Jets and the Chippewa Steel, their in-state rivals, fell in favor of the Steel Saturday night. Despite registering 39 shots on net, and winning the shot differential by 10, the Jets looked choked out at times by a tight-checking Steel team.
“The effort was there, the shots were there, there was good possession,” Leivermann said. “But getting to the tough areas, battling in the crease and the corners, we just didn’t do enough tonight and couldn’t get there. We played too much on the perimeter. Again, the shots and the effort were fine, but this was a playoff hockey game and we didn’t have the sustained pressure in those hard areas that you need to beat a team like Chippewa.”
Just minutes after the Jets’ loss, the Minnesota Magicians earned a point in a home overtime loss to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to follow up their Wednesday win over Chippewa. The race for the Midwest Division’s final playoff spot has tightened.
“We’re only two points up now on the Magicians,” Leivermann said Saturday night. “And we’re 0-7 versus Chippewa now, with two straight losses after our six-game win streak just ended. We gotta find a way to stop this bleeding. It’s frustrating, but now it’s time to get on the same page. We’ll look for a good effort in practice on Wednesday and Thursday after Top Prospects kind of returns us to a normal schedule, and then it’ll be a challenge to go into a tough environment Friday in Chippewa. We need to get that greasy win and come home Saturday.”
Despite the outcome, success was found in the stands on Saturday night. The Jets’ sixth annual American Cancer Society Night raised over $1,000 for the organization, which helps millions of Americans with cancer prevention, treatment, and research.
Local American Cancer Society and Relay for Life organizers and volunteers Tammy and Tim Brown led the night’s optics and fundraising efforts. Tammy and Tim frequently serve as the Jets’ volunteer non-profit bartenders, and will again raise more tip money on Saturday, February 29, for the American Cancer Society.
SATURDAY — L, 3-1
A flurry of three goals late in the first period, each scored about one minute from another, were the only pucks to beat goaltenders in the tight-checking seventh edition of the 2019-20 Battle of Wisconsin.
Chippewa scored the game’s first goal on their second trip to the power play when a point shot from Jackson Decker (16:18 1st) trickled through Grant Riley. About a minute later, Killian Kiecker-Olson toe-dragged a puck into a shooting lane in the low slot, lost it, and Luke Farthing (17:19 1st) smacked it on net, beating Riley through a heavy screen. Late in the first, on their first trip to the power play, the Jets’ top unit cycled extremely well and hustled to 50/50 battles, opening up chance after chance to cut into the lead. Forward Justin Thompson (18:18 1st) finally broke through, jamming home a rebound to extend his point streak to four games.
The Steel clogged things up in the middle frame. Though three Chippewa infractions gave the Jets a full six minutes on the power play, Janesville could only get 11 shots on net in the period. Each team laid a few heavy hits in the second, and a small scrum at the end of the period resulted in a pair of matching minors for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Two more opportunities for the man advantage earned nothing for Janesville in the opening half of the third period. An interference minor was assessed to Nick Nardella with less than two minutes to play, which put a serious cut into the Jets’ opportunities to pull Riley for the extra attacker. A chance finally came with about 30 seconds left, but Chippewa cleared the zone and scored an empty-netter with five seconds to play.
Each team had very good goaltending behind it Saturday, with the Steel’s Trent Burnham (17-11-0-0) registering 38 saves in the win. Grant Riley (13-17-1-0) was beaten twice, but stopped all 20 of Chippewa’s shots in the game’s final 40 minutes.
Around the Division
Chippewa Steel 2 @ Minnesota Magicians 4
Springfield Jr. Blues 5 @ Topeka Pilots 4 (OT)
Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3 @ Chippewa Steel 2 (SO)
Springfield Jr. Blues 1 @ Topeka Pilots 2
Fairbanks Ice Dogs 4 @ Minnesota Magicians 3 (OT)
|1||x – Fairbanks Ice Dogs||47||35-9-1-2||73|
|2||Kenai River Brown Bears||48||25-17-3-3||56|
|6||Springfield Jr. Blues||47||14-29-2-2||32|
Late Sunday afternoon, head coach Corey Leivermann and six Jets players board a plane to Attleboro, Massachusetts, for the 2020 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. Defensemen Nick Gonrowski and Anthony Szurlej join forward Nick Michel in representing the Midwest Division, and defenseman Grant Hindman, forward Isaac Novak, and goaltender Grant Riley will show NHL clubs what they have on the NAHL Selects Red team. All of the action from the highly-scouted event is broadcast live on HockeyTV.com.
The odd week means Wednesday’s practice will be the first for the full team ahead of next weekend’s home-and-home rematch series versus Chippewa.
Selects Red vs South | Mon Feb 17 | 11:00am CST
Midwest vs East | Mon Feb 17 | 1:30pm CST
Midwest vs Selects Red | Tues Feb 18 | 9:00am CST
Jets @ Steel | Fri Feb 21 | 7:10pm CST
Steel @ Jets | Sat Feb 22 | 7:05pm CST